All-you-can-eat culture is booming in Bristol. Everyone must, by now, be aware of Za Za Bazaar, holding up to 1,100 diners at any one time, and Flavourz always appears to be busy whenever I walk past.
Franchise restaurant Cosmo, located on the Triangle, was closed for refurbishment for four months at the start of 2012, before finally reopening to the public on April 26. We were invited by Cosmo’s PR agency to head over there and check out the changes…
As well as removing the “pay first” policy (customers now head over to a counter at the end of their meal to pay), Cosmo have added some new elements such as a Japanese Robata grill and an Indian tandoor.
A Saturday lunchtime, on reflection, may not have been the best time to visit, as it meant that we didn’t get the full Cosmo experience. Don’t get me wrong – the restaurant was busy (we had to wait for ten minutes to be seated as they had lost our booking), and the front desk seemed a little chaotic. Some of the food “stations”, however, were closed at the time of our visit: I’d have been interested to see whether the sushi, for example, had improved since our last visit, but it wasn’t available.
The new tandoor was in full swing, though, giving us the theatre of a chef carefully threading marinated chicken pieces onto huge skewers before placing them in the traditional clay oven to cook.
Unfortunately the service seemed as chaotic as before, but this appears to be common to all large-scale buffet restaurants. Being asked what we would like to drink before we even sat down seemed overly keen, but we then had to chase our order after waiting for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, we headed over to check out the food on offer…
The food at Cosmo is a bit of a mixed bag. The choices on offer are mainly Indian and Chinese, but these sit alongside the likes of chips, hash browns and cocktail sausages (presumably aimed at younger diners…?), and a token nod to Italian cuisine in the form of two pizzas and a large pasta dish.
Our consensus was that the Indian food was the star of the show – it’s good to see an improvement, as the curries were fairly poorly executed before the refurb. The chicken cooked in the brand new tandoor oven was lovely and tender, and we were both fans of the pureed aubergine dish (I forget the name). This was just one of a number of vegetarian options available, which also included a tasty mutter paneer and aloo gobi. There were also fresh naan breads and poppadums available, which I didn’t try (I didn’t want to fill up on bread!) but have heard good things about from others.
The Chinese food, however, was a little hit and miss. Bizarrely, it was the Chinese that was better than the Indian before the refurb – this has definitely now changed. I enjoyed the roasted black pepper pork, but the lemon chicken was disappointing – the chicken itself dry, the batter and the sauce both overly sugary. Not as much of a selection as we were expecting on the Chinese front, but we were getting pretty full by that point anyway!
One thing that we both picked up on was that there was a large number of “chef’s specials” on offer, which suggests that the selection of dishes on offer will be changing regularly. It would have helped, however, if there was a description of what each of these special dishes was: the lack of labelling for each of these special dishes meant that it was quite hard to try and ascertain what each one contained. We were also a little confused as to why each of the dishes had a hinged lid which wasn’t being used – every serving station remained with its lid wide open for the duration of our visit.
While we were tucking into our food, a large queue formed to the side of us – as it turned out, this was for the dessert counter. We waited till the queue had died down and headed over to find out what all of the fuss was about.
Starting with a selection of four cakes, the counter progressed to fresh fruit (well, fresh and what looked like tinned fruit), mini eclairs, cubes of jelly and, bizarrely, cherry tomatoes. The freezer containing catering tubs of soft scoop ice cream (strawberry, chocolate and vanilla) was overrun with children, which explains the long queue times. I tried a piece of Black Forest Gateau, which was surprisingly good for something that appeared to have been defrosted, but we were disappointed not to see any hot desserts, which had been promised in Cosmo’s press release. Maybe these only appear in the evenings.
It’s hard to justify complaining about any element of our meal when the prices are so low (Monday to Friday lunch is £6.99; Saturday lunch is £7.99; Monday to Thursday dinner is £12.99; Friday to Saturday dinner is £14.99; Sundays & Bank Holidays whole day is £12.99). Cosmo definitely has a time and a place – for groups of people who can’t agree on what to eat, and for families with children, it’s not a bad shout. Drinks prices are fairly reasonable, and it always seems popular with students. I’d be interested to hear comments from others who have visited since the refurbishment…
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
Find Cosmo on the Bristol Bites Directory…